A Guide To Forgiveness

Even though my training as a family therapist and counselor made me introspect and mend a lot of the concerns I had in my own life, the one thing I always avoided was forgiveness. I did not want to forgive. I wanted to go on hating the people who had hurt me. Though I knew the chemicals it was releasing in my brain were not good for me, there was a sense of pleasure in it. How I loved those stories that I narrated to myself and others of how unfair someone had been to me!  However, every time I met a client who I knew would benefit from forgiveness, I would feel like a fake asking them to do something I was unable to practice myself. I realized it was time to get a taste of my own medicine. 

This guide to forgiveness is written with the intent of sharing the understanding that I used and benefited from. Knowing the “What” and “How” of forgiveness will allow you to practice it more easily than you would have thought possible. 

What is forgiveness?

  1. Forgiveness is a conscious, empowered decision: It is your decision, and no one can or should force you to take it.
  2. Forgiveness helps you move on completely: It can be given even without an apology from the person who has offended you. As it stems from your desire to move on, there is no point holding on to the desire of apology either. Move on means move on. 
  3. Forgiveness means freedom: Forgiveness helps you unburden yourself with negative feelings, thoughts of revenge, feelings of hurt and also feelings of being a victim.
  4. Forgiveness means good health: Research has shown that forgiveness stabilizes blood pressure and reduces anxiety. It helps you sleep better and reduce cardiovascular stress. 
  5. Forgiveness IS hard: But just because it is hard shouldn’t make you undermine its other benefits to yourself. I can assure you that once you have forgiven, you will say to yourself, “Why didn’t I do it sooner?”.

What forgiveness is not.

  1. Not Reconciliation: Forgiveness does not mean you have to reconcile with the person or the situation. You can forgive AND draw boundaries.
  2. Not Forgetting: While we forgive, we remove the emotions of hurt, resentment and revenge. There is no need to erase the actions from your memory, simply erase the power that memory has over you.
  3. Not Approval: Just because you forgive, you do not have to approve the actions of the person who hurt you.
  4. Not an Exchange: Forgiveness is not given in exchange for an apology. It is something you give to yourself as you are the real beneficiary when you forgive. 
  5. Not Easy: Practicing forgiveness can be difficult sometimes and may even seem impossible. At such times it’s alright to allow yourself to just be. Time is a great healer. 

How to Forgive?
I personally find the Worthington model of forgiveness called REACH easy and effective. 

R – ‘Recall the hurt.’ To heal, you have to face the fact that you’ve been hurt.
E – ‘Empathize with the offender’ in your mind by seeing the situation from their point of view or what may have made them do something that offended or hurt you. This may be a difficult step and I took help from my senior therapist for the same. It may be a good idea to have a therapist to take you through this step. 
A – ‘Altruistic gift of forgiveness’. Offering forgiveness to those who have not asked for it or may not even have offered an apology.
C – ‘Commit to forgive’. Committing to someone ensures that you are able to stay on the path of forgiveness. The person or people you commit to, help you stay firm on your decision to forgive.
H – ‘Hold onto forgiveness’ and let go of any recurring thoughts about the offence and hurt. 

Each step in the above model may take some time for you and that’s ok. Try and go through this process for smaller minor hurts, then it may become second nature for you. Have I been able to forgive all? Not all, yet. The stories that I have not been able to let go of, I am allowing time and space to heal that part of me. The one’s I have make me feel so much better that I ask myself, ‘Why didn’t I think of doing this before?’

Abhilasha Herr
Abhilasha Herr

Abhilasha Herr is a Post Graduate in Marital and Family Therapy, Relationships Counsellor, Master Mindfulness Trainer. In her past life, her work as a Behavioural Skills trainer for more than a decade was instrumental in her quest to delve deeper into the science of facilitating real behavioural change. When she’s not helping her clients, she can be found strumming her guitar or with a book in her favourite nook. She is currently living in Delhi with her golfer husband and soon to be teen, son.

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35 thoughts on “A Guide To Forgiveness”

  1. Very relatable article. Forgiveness is definitely hard but must be practiced for our own peace of mind. Great job abhilasha, looking forward to more articles from you.

  2. Beautifully penned down Abhilasha …. Many people keep reliving their bad experience , they suffered once, by memorising it daily… You are doing a grt job by enabling people put off their burden…Keep it up !!

  3. I think forgiveness is the key to all our problems and to a certain extent our ailments too…it’s important to shed the extra baggage that we carry throughout our lives…and most important for our personal growth…
    By showing them the right path u are helping humanity to grow in a positive manner…

    1. You are absolutely right about how forgiveness can free us from ailments. The mind body connection should be honored.

  4. Very well penned Abhilasha … its not easy to forgive… but you made it sound so simple and easy…thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for appreciating and its great that you are able to find it easier now. Its all what we tell ourselves that makes things hard or easy.

  5. Beautifully and so empathetically expressed. Forgiveness is difficult and most appealing is the wonderful practicality of the approach elaborated on so brilliantly. Abhilasha do keep them coming!

  6. Beautiful piece and so true forgiveness allows you to leave the baggage that weighs you down and allows you to progress to lighter fulfilled life.

  7. I liked REACH model that you have shared.

    Yes, forgiving is a process, sometimes long drawn!

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed reading this. The reach modal is by Worthington and you can read up more about it on the net.

  8. Very well expressed and clearly put, just loved it and definitely try to imbibe personally ..yes forgiveness is the healthiest path forward!!thanks for sharing.

    1. I am so glad you liked it. Like they say taste of pudding is in eating it. Hope this helps all of us.

  9. Such a wonderful article ..it’s so true forgiveness is one of the most difficult thing to do but certainly it heals you from inside

  10. Abhi, what a brilliantly structured write up.
    Everything about the what and how is explained so well And the model to apply this is a simple and easy tool to adapt.
    The journey starts with self forgiveness and then to manifest it before we start with the others.
    Thanks so much for a brilliant piece

    1. Your feedback means a lot and am so happy you liked reading this. Much much more to learn from you.

  11. I too want to forgive but can’t. After reading this article I think I can try to do so. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. I think it resonates with everyone at some point of time or the other. Thank you for responding.

  12. Loved the way you have explained such a difficult thing in such simple words. Actually feels like anybody can do it with a little effort. Great work. I’m sure lot of people will benefit from it including me.

  13. Yes Abhilasha…..it’s not at all easy…this art of forgiving……the hurt doggedly follows and haunts the person and the feeling of being ‘wronged’ is so dominant! I am sure with conscious practice, forgiving someone may come in more easily. No doubt, your article will help me in my ‘ forgiving’ thought process. Great article!!

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